Asian markets mixed ahead of Bernanke speech

Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday, with attention turning to a speech by US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke later in the week as dealers look for an indication of any stimulus by the central bank.

The euro eased against the yen and dollar after rising late Tuesday following successful bond auctions in Spain and Italy and on expectations that the European Central Bank (ECB) will restart a bond-buying programme.

Tokyo gained 0.40 percent, or 36.52 points, to end at 9,069.81 and Seoul added 0.64 percent, or 12.21 points, to 1,928.54. Sydney closed flat, edging down 0.07 percent, or 2.98 points, to 4,356.4 points.

Hong Kong fell 0.12 percent, or 23.29 points, to 19,788.51 and Shanghai eased 0.96 percent, or 19.91 points, to 2,053.24, its lowest since February 2009.

Bernanke is due to address central bankers at an annual meeting in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, on Friday, with investors hoping he will outline plans for further measures to boost the world's number one economy.

"Players remain in wait-and-see mode leading up to the Jackson Hole summit where more hints on information about the direction of monetary policy are expected," said Hiroichi Nishi, general manager of equities at SMBC Nikko Securities, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

Global markets enjoyed an impressive rally in August on hopes for fresh Fed stimulus and bond-buying by the ECB, while Chinese leaders are also expected to loosen monetary policy to kickstart the Asian giant.

On forex markets the euro bought $1.2541 and 98.52 yen in afternoon Asian trade, compared with $1.2565 and 98.68 yen in New York late Tuesday.

The single currency was given some support by news that ECB head Mario Draghi would not attend Jackson Hole, which stoked speculation a new round of bond buying was near.

The dollar was at 78.50 yen against 78.49 yen.

Wall Street provided an anaemic lead after mixed economic data.

The Conference Board reported its US consumer confidence index dropped to a nine-month low of 60.6 for August, down from 65.9 in July.

The report showed lower confidence over business and job prospects.

Before the opening bell, the S&P Case-Shiller Home Price Index of 20 cities showed prices rose for the fifth straight month in June, by 1.0 percent.

The Dow fell 0.17 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.08 percent while the tech-rich Nasdaq rose 0.13 percent.

On Tokyo's Nikkei index shares in troubled microchip maker Renesas closed up 35.08 percent at 308 yen after media reports that a US investment fund plans to spend $1.3 billion to take control of it.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) reportedly hopes to reach a formal agreement with the firm's top three Japanese stakeholders -- NEC, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Electric -- as early as September.

The investment of 100 billion yen would dwarf Renesas's market capitalisation of about 95 billion yen as of Tuesday.

Oil eased, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for October delivery, shedding 83 cents to $95.50 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for delivery in the same month slipping 66 cents to $111.92.

Gold was at $1,665.05 at 1050 GMT compared to $1,661.90 on Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Taipei rose 0.40 percent, or 29.21 points, to 7,391.15.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co was 0.36 percent higher at Tw$82.7 while leading smartphone maker HTC gained 2.01 percent at Tw$253.5.

-- Manila closed 0.39 percent higher, adding 20.10 points to 5,195.72.

Metropolitan Bank and Trust rose 1.39 percent to 94.85 pesos and SM Prime Holdings added 0.29 percent to 13.80 pesos.

-- Wellington closed flat, edging down 0.66 points to 3,628.39.

Telecom was down 0.2 percent at NZ$2.43 and Air New Zealand was flat at NZ$0.90.

-- Bangkok fell 1.05 percent, or 13.00 points, to 1,220.16.

Energy firm Banpu gained 0.45 percent to 446.00 baht, while energy giant PTT lost 0.30 percent to 333.00 baht.

-- Kuala Lumpur stocks were flat, losing 0.09 percent, or 1.53 points, to close at 1,645.58.

Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd fell 1.4 percent to 23.24 ringgit while PPB Group Bhd was down 0.7 percent to 13.98 ringgit.

-- Singapore was flat, closing up 0.05 percent, or 1.50 points, at 3,041.57.

Olam International fell 2.01 percent to Sg$1.95 while DBS Group added 0.83 percent to Sg$14.62.

-- Jakarta closed 1.20 percent, or 49.68 points, lower at 4,093.17.

Mining company Aneka Tambang fell 1.57 percent to 1,250 rupiah, Astra International fell 2.10 percent to 7,000 rupiah, while Indocement slid 3.12 percent to 20,200 rupiah.

-- Mumbai fell 0.80 percent, or 140.90 points, to 17,490.81.

Sterlite Industries, the local arm of global resources group Vedanta, fell 4.69 percent to 99.6 rupees while leading motorcycle maker Bajaj Auto slid 3.96 percent to 1,627.25 rupees.

  • Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia 1 hour 56 minutes ago
    Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day 16 hours ago
    The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day

    The Lotus Europa was one of the stranger sports cars of the '70s, but still managed to corner like a sheepdog thanks to its low weight and fiberglass body. This example caught by Dave Lindsay is fairly typical of the nicer early '70s Type 62 Europas Lotus exported to the United States; by today's standards they're odd, underpowered and unreliable — which means they have a fervent fan base.

  • Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph 17 hours ago
    Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph

    In MotoGP, a most strange sport, compact, highly fit men, most of them Spanish, Italian, Japanese, or Australian, maneuver 350-lb., multimillion-dollar motorcycles around Formula One tracks at 220 mph while wearing computerized suits that inflate when they fall off at speed. It feels as though you’re watching Tron live, and the crashes are just as spectacular. Driving these things requires a lot of nerve, as well as generous levels of Euro-style machismo. The riders of MotoGP can’t walk down the street in Barcelona or Milan without being followed by screaming fans. They’re like some sort of unholy marriage between Daft Punk and Apollo astronauts. In the United States, they’re just guys walking down the street.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania
    McDonald's Hello Kitty sale site temporarily suspended due to fresh wave of Kitty mania

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.